King Felipe may well have been surprised that the Palacio inauguration generated a controversy.

25-09-2017Jaume Morey

Demonstration week
Everyone seemed to be demonstrating last week. The "countryside alliance" of farmers, hunters, pro-bullfighters and others brought their protest to the government's headquarters - they are annoyed about policies such as the expansion of the zones for bird protection. Patriotic Spaniards showed their support for the Guardia Civil outside the force's barracks in Palma. These same patriots held a counter-Catalonia referendum rally and also appeared in front of the Palacio de Congresos for the arrival of King Felipe and Queen Letizia on Monday. The pro-referendum side drew some 3,000 people to a Palma demonstration, a similar number to those who had attended the "tourist massification" rally last weekend.

This latter demonstration unsurprisingly found its way into the British press. What was perhaps surprising was that reports, such as one in The Sun, relied on three readers of the Bulletin's website who had posted comments. Fleet Street, parts of it anyway, appeared - as it has in the past - to be at war with each other to see who could whip up the greatest amount of distorted and grossly exaggerated reporting of the situation in Majorca to do with so-called anti-tourism. Among other things, we thought that The Sun's effort was "cheap".


The Palacio row
The grand official opening of the Palacio aroused what we felt was an unnecessary and pointless row. The president of Meliá made a brief reference to the tourist tax during his address. This provoked elements on the left to go on the attack, in particular the Més parliamentary spokesperson, David Abril. The whole fuss descended into a somewhat ridiculous tit-for-tat about freedom of speech. But we wondered why the occasion had been allowed to become one for a spot of politicking, and this applied to both Gabriel Escarrer and President Armengol. Was it really necessary, especially as everyone was already familiar with the opposing viewpoints?


Tourism night and survey
Wednesday was the UN's World Tourism Day, so the Palacio was once more the venue for the Night of Tourism. The government handed out awards to those who merited special mention for their efforts in respect of sustainable tourism, and the event passed off without any controversy. However, the environmentalists GOB (who may or may not have not been on the invite list) declared that World Tourism Day was nothing to celebrate. So, nothing new there, then.

Coinciding with all this was the latest annual survey into environmental concerns that the Balearic public have. Six hundred interviews arrived at the conclusion that "massification" was top of the list. While the report's author concluded that the survey was something of a wake-up call in warning about the consequences of excessive tourist numbers, he also pointed out that there isn't a majority opinion in favour of restricting the number of tourists. The survey was significant in terms of the difference of opinion across age groups. It was the under-25s who most felt that there are excessive numbers of tourists, a finding which did rather reinforce the profile of those who had attended the massification demo. As we noted, young people habitually protest for a cause.


Hotels and rentals
The hoteliers and the unions came to an agreement for a 17% wage rise over the next four years. The agreement wasn't all sweetness and light though. The restaurants and nightlife sector, lumped into the same agreement, said they wouldn't sign it as it would result in a whole load of businesses closing. The hoteliers themselves, despite what was said, were split. The larger hotel chains are in a better position to accept wage rises of the magnitude agreed. The smaller chains are not.

The great opponents of the hoteliers (other than the likes of Podemos), the holiday rentals' sector, said that the debate about tourist numbers should be focused on the hotels and not on private accommodation. Aptur and others produced a manifesto which claimed that there will be a loss of 1,000 million euros a year because of the rentals' legislation. This figure, depending on the source, does tend to vary.


In other news, forty-two more illegal immigrants tried to make their way into Europe via Majorca (they'll be packed off back to Algeria along with all the others during the summer); seventy tortoises were released back into the wild in the Mondragó Nature Park; Warren Lyttle accepted a twelve-year prison sentence for having strangled his wife Lisa in January last year; and three Calvia police officers hitched a ride with a taxi to go in pursuit of a thief who had violently snatched a woman's bag in Magalluf.

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